I get asked all the time about the differences between a smartphone app and a mobile 2012-mobile-example01website. Many people are under the impression that they do the same thing because they contain much of the same information.  So, does your practice need to invest in both?  Here is some information that will hopefully make that question much easier to answer.

What is a smartphone (Practice) App?

An “App” is a smartphone application that your patients and referring doctors download free from the Apple App Store or Google Play (formerly Droid Marketplace). It contains information about your practice, such as list of services, information about the doctors and staff members, locations and hours of operation, educational videos, testimonials and provides patients a means to request information, schedule appointments, refer friends, and provides direct links to your social media sites.  The Doctor App design integrates with smartphone features, such as GPS, allows patients to send you email messages, and allows you to send push notifications to everyone who has downloaded your App.  There are thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of app developers Winksite, Cloud Nine Development and My Doctor App to name just a few.

What is a Mobile Website?

A mobile website is a mobile friendly version of your conventional website that is optimized for viewing and operating on a smartphone and is accessible via the smartphone’s internet browser.

There are 3 very compelling reasons why you should create a mobile version of your conventional website:

  1. Viewing Area – the size and shape of a smartphone screen is completely different from your PC or laptop monitor.  Look at your website on a smartphone and you will quickly see the issues – it’s likely too small to see what you’re looking for and very difficult to navigate.   When people looking for you on their smartphone find you have a website they can’t navigate (forced to continually zoom-in and out to see the content they want), they immediately bounce (leave) out of frustration.  You can tell how frequently this is happening by checking your Google Analytics report and looking specifically at the mobile device access information.
  2. User Behavior – mobile websites should be designed to show key information quickly and should be optimized for touch screen navigation. People surf the web differently on their PC’s than they do on their smartphones. When smartphone users are surfing the net, they are “on the go,” surfing with a purpose and likely have an immediate need. They want answers to their questions quickly and don’t want to spend time hunting for information.
  3. Statistics – According to Gartner Research, one-half of all website traffic will be coming from mobile devices by 2013. Google Analytics already shows that for some of our clients’ websites, the number of visitors using mobile devices is already at 33%.   Informa/KPCA reported that in Q4, 2011 there were 208 million 3G subscribers in the US, and 25% of these users only surf the internet on their mobile device – not on their desktop or laptop. (Source: http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats/b#mobilewebchina

Two Different Tools for Two Different Types of Patients

  • Existing Patients: The smartphone app is for your existing patients.  It’s like a special, high-tech “thank you” gift you provide to them for being a loyal patient that gives them a direct line of communication to your practice.  They can contact you directly through the app and you can send them push notifications of exclusive offers or news worthy events.  Having a smartphone application demonstrates that your practice is keeping up with the latest advances in technology and that you want to make communication with them easier.  Moreover, since your patients’ phones are always with them, anytime the subject of eye problems or eye surgery comes up in a conversation, they can say, “I have an App for that”,  and they can immediately refer their friend to your practice through the App.
  • Prospective Patients: A mobile website is primarily for prospective patients.  It is ideal for those thousands of smartphone users in your area searching for a pharmacy, restaurant, coffee shop, or doctor.  It’s for those thousands of prospective patients wanting to know if you provide the service they want and why they should make an appointment with you. If a prospective patient went to your website on their smartphone today, would they be able to make a decision to contact you in less than three minutes?

So, the question remains, does YOUR practice need both?  It’s my opinion that when deciding between the two, your website should always take priority.  In this day and age, every website should have a mobile version, be built using a responsive design, or at the very least, be compatible for mobile viewing.  If your budget doesn’t allow for investing in an app, your website can essentially serve both purposes.  When considering investing in app development, do your homework.  Your first homework assignment would be to simply ask your patients about it.  Send them a survey asking for their feedback on how you can improve communications and service, or simply ask them during their appointment and have the staff keep a tally. If you have the budget and it would make your patients happy…there is your answer.